“MacArthur Park” has been recorded and performed by everyone from Donna Summers to Richard Harris; it even inspired a Weird Al Yankovic parody. But until now the sprawling, seven-and-a-half minute song has never been performed at its namesake venue, MacArthur Park.
Know for its sentimentality, its length, and its unconventional metaphors, including a cake famously left out in the rain (“And I’ll never have that recipe again…”), the song was inspired by Webb’s breakup with girlfriend Susan Ronstadt (a cousin of Linda Ronstadt) and the days they spent in MacArthur Park.
Webb, who penned hits for The Fifth Dimension (“Up, Up and Away”) and Glenn Campbell (“By the Time I Get to Phoenix”), began his songwriting career when he was sixteen years old. He moved from Oklahoma to San Bernardino in 1964 to study music and when his mother died, Webb decided not to return to Oklahoma. His father gave him $40 before, saying, “This songwriting thing is going to break your heart.”
Since then, Webb has been a prolific composer penning pop songs, classical music, Broadway musicals, and film scores (The Last Unicorn). In 1988, he wrote the critically acclaimed book Tunesmith: The Art of Songwriting. In recent years, he has released two critically acclaimed CDs and participated in a tribute concert to Glenn Campbell.
Webb’s upcoming concert, in addition to being the first performance of “MacArthur Park” in MacArthur Park, will feature his experiments in jazz, world music, and other genres.